Ever since I turned 21 (the age of majority back then), I’ve not bothered with any more birthday milestones, except where others (e.g. wives / girlfriends / buddies) have turned it into one. I remember my fortieth (I think) because we threw a party which I turned into a costume (Eng. “fancy dress”) party — and I used it as an excuse to invite longtime friends I hadn’t seen for a while. As I recall, the theme was “Vanished Civilizations” so that People With No Imagination could arrive in togas — and nobody did, which shows the imaginative nature of my friends back then. (Hippies, Fifties-era bobbysoxers, 1930s gangsters and so on… I dressed myself as a Viking, complete with battle-axe.) So popular was the party that my friends implored me to make it an annual event, with different themes; thereafter we dressed as Pirates, Priests ‘n Prostitutes, My Worst Nightmare, Bad Taste (for that, one woman came dressed as her husband’s ex-wife, complete with 1980s shoulder-pads and massive hair).
The actual anniversary (my birthday) was quite forgotten, as it should be — I refused offers of presents and all that shit from the very start — and the parties, for the next half-dozen or so years, became a fixture in our social calendars. And when I moved from Chicago to New Jersey (and got divorced in the process), those parties ended, never to be replaced. They were an occasion to celebrate friendship, and after the first one, the dates varied wildly, dependent to a large degree on how many of us would be in town at the same time.
I do have one birthday coming up which is of no consequence at all other than it marks the date I’ll be eligible for MediCare. But otherwise… fach, as they say in Scottishland.
This all came to me while I was reading this little tale of self-absorption:
Why I cancelled my 50th birthday bash
There’s a bigger problem when you are trying to put together a party of tricky 50-year-old egos. That’s the recently sober, the ones who are still looking down — nay, levitating in holier-than-thou, po-faced judgment — upon the rest of us.
Recently cleaned-up types are so readily upset by even the most jovial party animal, it’s hell working out who sits next to them.
Eventually, though, I did the table-planning algebra and I drew up my list and sent out the invites to 40 good friends and family. And then a whole new horror reared its ugly head. The ‘polite decliners’.
They can’t come to my 50th because they’re off counting their gold in another country for the entirety of the summer, or they have encircled Sundays as special family days that they can’t possibly sacrifice. There needs to be a barren spinster sad face emoji.
That’s all well and good. But what’s the magic in a number divided by 10? Simple answer: there is none, other than that created by lazy journalists (e.g. 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, as though that’s relevant to anything) and Hallmark Cards (“Happy Half-Century, Yo!”).
The idea of celebrating these artificial milestones of one’s life irritates me for some reason. I’d rather celebrate meaningful anniversaries — this year marks my twenty-first anniversary as a U.S. citizen, for example, and the only reason I didn’t celebrate the twentieth thereof was that I never noticed it. (It was triggered a couple weeks ago by someone asking me how long I’d been a citizen, and I had to go and check my naturalization certificate.)
And don’t give me that guff about “it’s an excuse to have a party” or similar: no adult needs an excuse to have a party, FFS. (It’s almost as bad as those fools who say they never drink until 5pm; what bullshit, if you feel like a drink, have a fucking drink. Life’s too short to let your life be determined by some arbitrary position of the hands on a clock or, for that matter, the page of a calendar.)
Speaking of calendars, here’s Esquire Magazine’s November 1954 page, with the relevant birthday circled:
…and just so y’all know: the only reason I celebrate November 19th at all is to remind you lazy bastards to buy ammo.